The following factors should be considered with respect to changes in norms, behavioral patterns, attitudes, education access, health and wellness conditions, and demographics.

Freedom of speech on campus

  • Intensifying tests to limits of “free speech”/ 1 amendment rights
    • “Sanctuary Campuses” vs. “Brave Campuses”

APLU Letter on Free Speech, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, 6/5/17

"A tension exists on college and university campuses across America today concerning how to pursue liberal, rational, open learning and, at the same time, celebrate a spirit of academic community—in short, how to exercise free expression and maintain civility." The Contours of Free Expression on Campus: Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and Civility, Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1/2017

"Legal scholars, educational administrators, journalists, and students have all witnessed a rise in students being disciplined by university officials for speech and conduct deemed inappropriate for college campuses. In endeavoring to explain this trend, some academics point to the disconnect between the Department of Education and university administrators regarding the legal standards for campus antiharassment policies." A Balancing Act for American Universities: Anti-Harassment Policy v. Freedom of Speech, Journal of Law and Policy, 12/2/2016

Academic freedom

Universities are being confronted with increasingly contentious challenges to “academic freedom” and “freedom of speech.”

In a time when factual research findings are routinely questioned in public discourse, faculty and students should feel free to pursue science and the production of knowledge through well-established systems including peer review and the scientific method.

"Academic freedom is the indispensable requisite for unfettered teaching and research in institutions of higher education." American Association of University Professors.

Faith on campus

Intensifying scrutiny of how universities address and accommodate diverse faiths.

"The article examines a remarkable paradox between the overwhelming public view supporting free speech as a principle, as attested by specific polls about the issue, and the fact that most people require establishing boundaries on certain types of speech. Particularly, while American society seems to openly accept free speech and even hate speech, the new generation of America requires ‘safe spaces’ without offensive speech." The United States safe space campus controversy and the paradox of freedom of speech, Church, Communication and Culture, 10/27/2016

Wellness and mental health

There remains a continuing necessity for building appropriately resourced wellness and mental health services on campus to support growing student needs

Opioid crisis. College campuses are not immmune to the effects of the nationwide opioid crisis.

"A 2015 survey by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and the Christie Foundation found that college students are just as likely as other people to abuse narcotics." U.S. opioid epidemic spreads to college campuses, Education Advisory Board, 5/11/17

Mental health. Mental health issues can arise in college students facing many new stresses. 

"Adjusting to the academic demands of college, moving away from home, and making new social connections represent just a few of the factors contributing to college students’ stress, anxiety, or depression levels, especially among new students with already existing stressors such as a disability, chronic illness, or psychological disorder." The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2016 (p.11), Cooperative Institutional Research Program and the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 2017


Accusations of universities being “hotbeds of liberal subversion” (and variants thereof) continue to intensify.

"This vision of American universities is largely inadequate in at least two ways. First, it incorrectly blames increased fragility exclusively on the university system itself and, second, it relies on a reductive caricature of America’s institutions of higher learning." Deconstructing the 'Liberal Campus' Cliche, The Atlantic, 2/13/2017

Public accountability and trust

  • Mounting public expectations that every facet of university operations is completely transparent (including UBF/RF activities)
  • Increased public scrutiny of higher education with mounting doubt as to the return on investment

The purpose of education is to prepare every student to excel in a dynamic world. With the current emphasis on job training, public scrutiny and trust in higher education often steers the national debate toward job training and workforce development. Emphasizing the immediate workforce needs of the state creates simple quantitative performance measures, but ignores the actual desires of many employers to hire innovative, critical thinkers with broad skill sets. 

Accountability. Accountability has increased at a time when the public's trust in education has eroded.  

Is the Public Good Role of Higher Education Under Attack? International Higher Education, Fall 2017

"Welfare states and universities, two critically important public institutions, seem to be under heavy attack from the public, the media, and politicians. Their long-term sustainability is being questioned, and solutions to their (real and perceived) problems are being sought at global, European, and national levels." Higher Education, Welfare States and Austerity: Pressures on Competing Public Institutions, Higher Education in Austerity Europe (excerpt), Marek Kwiek, p. 33, 2017  

Trust. Unequal wealth distribution, stagnant wages and greater emphasis on education as a point of access to the middle class have left many struggling with a perception of stronger class divisions developing in the U.S.   

"American higher education is often seen as part of the America that embraces and benefits from globalization, technological innovation, and the information economy—and therefore as disconnected from the suffering experienced by those in economic distress." Bridging the American Political Divide: The Role of Higher Education in Advancing Civil Discourse, Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2017

"Is the principal aim of education to provide a padded yoke for the state’s preexisting workforce? Or is it, all things considered, to improve our lives?" Education isn't a commodity for labor, The Conversation, 8/31/17  

"While students and families have been willing to pay escalating prices for college opportunity, there is growing evidence that citizens are increasingly frustrated, losing confidence in colleges’ ability to control costs and price, growing more disillusioned about their ability to access an affordable college education, and in some cases questioning the value of benefit for the investment." Troubled Waters: Higher Education, Public Opinion and Public Trust, January 2013

"The good news is that the skills—what many in the academy refer to as learning outcomes—valued by employers and critical for employment are the same as those needed for civic engagement. Critical thinking, problem solving, working in diverse teams, ethical reasoning, communicating—these make both good employees and good citizens." Higher Education's Public Purpose, Association of American College & Universities, 6/20/16

"Employers are highly focused on innovation as critical to the success of their companies and they report that the challenges their employees face today are more complex and require a broader skill set than in the past. Notably, employers indicate that they prioritize critical thinking, communication, and complex problem-solving skills over a job candidate’s major field of study when making hiring decisions." It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, Association of American College & Universities, 4/10/13

Demographic trends

The demographics of the university community are changing to trend toward being more representative of the population at large.


"...Inclusion is less about representation and more about the environment in which we operate. Diversity Is Not Enough. Inclusion Is the Key. Higher Education Today, 3/17/17

Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, 11/16/17

Defending Diversity, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/26/17

Strategic enrollment planning

Codification and adoption of the Strategic Enrollment Plan will enable UB to be more efficient and effective in targeting historically underrepresented student (and potentially faculty) populations.

Diversity and inclusivity

It is becoming increasingly necessary to build a more visibly and vocally diverse and inclusive environment.

"Beyond well-funded individual campus initiatives aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented minority faculty members, experts urge collaboration across institutions and within disciplines." Not Just 'Musical Chairs', Inside Higher Ed, 9/19/2016

Inclusive infrastructure funding

A lack of agile apparatus (and associated funding) to address infrastructure changes in response to cultural shifts (e.g., gender-neutral bathrooms) must be addressed.

"Transgender people want to be able to freely express their gender identities, to use names and pronouns consistent with those identities, and to have access to gender-inclusive bathrooms, dormitories, locker rooms, and other facilities." Diversity in Academe: Transgender on Campus, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/18/2015